"This is in keeping with the traditional solicitude for the 'poor, friendless and improvident' seaman" is how the U.S. District Court in Hawaii in Barnes v. Sea Hawaii Rafting, LLC, et al., Case no. 13-00002 explained in ruling on a motion seeking maintenance (room and board). The issue was not whether maintenance was owed (it almost always is even where the employer is not at fault), but in what amount. That is, the injured crewmember was demanding a certain amount of maintenance be paid. Among other things, the Defendants pushed back arguing that the amount sought was too much because the crewmember was living with friends. An injured crewmember living with family, friends or on the charity of others does not typically extinguish his or her right to maintenance if there is an expressed intention to pay for the lodging and food. Examining the amount of maintenance that should be paid the Court considered the injured seaman's reasonable and actual expenses. The parties submitted numerous affidavits on the issues of the expenses incurred which the Court digested concluding that under the injured crewmember's analysis reasonable maintenance was between $43 and $61 per day while the Defendants asserted the rate should be between $30 and $33 per day. Ultimately, because the issue was raised on summary judgment the fact that there was a dispute as to the facts which supported these competing rates precluded the Court from making a determination leaving the matter for trial.
What's the takeaway? Not much except a decent primer on the maintenance analysis. What's my thought? This issue should have been resolved amicably between the parties. As it stands, the Defendants burned through a bunch of coin opposing the motion and the injured sailor doesn't have maintenance payments.
Underway and making way.
By John K. Fulweiler
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